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Project Spotlight: Open Standard Respirator (OSR)

Volunteers respond to COVID-19 pandemic with an alternative to the N95 respirator mask.

Written by: Tif Ho


A collaborative group of volunteers is currently prototyping the Open Standard Respirator (OSR). The OSR can be used to stop the spread of COVID-19 and serves as an alternative to elastomeric face-fitting N95 respirators. The reusable mask unit is paired with a replaceable filter disc for multiple use.

The Challenge

COVID-19 can cause severe health issues, including major organ failure and death in affected individuals. As of late April, the virus has resulted in over 3,000,000 confirmed cases and more than 200,000 deaths worldwide. Due to shortages in testing and spread from asymptomatic carriers, the true tally of cases and deaths is unknown. However, health experts estimate that the fatality rate is much higher than cited in official records. In fact, since COVID emerged, there have been at least 122,000 unexplained deaths in 14 countries alone. That number is likely much higher when taking into account other countries that were not studied. 


In light of this situation, individuals should protect themselves and others by wearing a face mask while in public. However, the global supply chain has been unable to meet this new demand for protective equipment. The unprecedented surge in demand has created unforeseen complications. As other businesses have shut down their operations, factories and warehouses have ramped up theirs. While workers manufacture and distribute equipment to protect others, they remain unprotected themselves. Consequently, these essential businesses have become hotspots for the spread of Coronavirus, leading to worker protests and forced shutdowns that negatively impact manufacturing and distribution. The result is a crippling shortage of face masks, face shields, gloves, and other protective equipment. 


Overwhelming demand for safe, high-quality equipment and the inability of manufacturers to effectively lead a sustained global response are coupled with intellectual property rights. With respect to respirator masks, intellectual property rights leads to the use of proprietary components in filter materials. This prevents inter-compatibility between existing respirator designs and various filter materials, which exacerbates the shortage of protective equipment.


The Solution

Led by Open Standard Respirator (OSR), and in conjunction with Helpful Engineering, volunteers are currently working on the Open Standard Respirator Model 1 (OSR-M1). The OSR-M1 is a “modular, reusable, open-source filtering facepiece respirator for rapid and distributed production scaling.” The device is not yet certified but it aims to serve as an alternative to the N95 respirator mask, once it passes necessary testing.


The OSR-M1 aims to be a half face respirator mask. The OSR-M1 aims to offer the same safety, filtration, and breathability of elastomeric face-fitting N95 respirators. This protective equipment includes a silicone and polypropolene injection moulded mask unit that can be sanitized and reused. The unit is paired with a low-cost, single-use, replaceable filter disc. This respirator mask is compatible with various non-proprietary filter materials. Designed for a wide range of face shapes and sizes, the OSR-M1 is comfortable for long-term wear.


Due to the open source design, the OSR-M1 mask allows for low-cost, rapid, and sustainable non-centralized mass production. The estimated cost per mask is $15 to $25. The design is fully moldable and can be created with single-pull tooling for both its plastic and silicone components. Additionally, it is compatible with multiple filter materials. The equipment is currently in advanced stages of manufacturing-ready-prototyping.

At the time of writing, 350 molded first-article units have been produced in the U.S. in preparation for testing, while additional production is coming online in Colombia and Portugal thanks to development partner Simoldes Plásticos.


Open Standard Respirator (OSR)

OSR is a collaborative group leading the OSR-M1 project; the group was originally organized under Helpful Engineering. OSR fills a much-needed gap in the global supply chain. The organization helps those with manufacturing capabilities to produce protective equipment based on the open OSR-M1 design specification. This helps manufacturers to avoid some of the issues of other respirator designs, which are locked behind intellectual property walls. The result is quick and low-cost mobilization in designing, manufacturing, and distributing protective equipment. 


OSR includes numerous volunteers and partner organizations. The OSR-M1 project is led by a product development team. This team includes Aaron Cantrell of Cofab Design, Philip Brown of Wake Forest Medical Center and University,
Matt Carney of MIT Media Lab Biomechatronics. Cantrell, Philip and Carney have extensive experience in mechanical design engineering, prototyping and product development. The team works with multiple designers, developers, and manufacturers, as well as several strategic and funding partners. To find the full list of OSR collaborators, click here.


The OSR team states that they “are not trying to be in the business of making masks, but rather trying to address current supply issues with a design that can better leverage available resources.” To help with this mission, they are seeking additional funding and volunteers. Donations and grants would allow for the continued development of the respirator. OSR is also seeking additional partners – specifically vertically-integrated manufacturers who can produce the OSR-M1 design. Manufacturers who can take ownership of the entire process would help to hasten the production and distribution of the OSR-M1.


Learn more about Open Standard Respirator here.

Contact Info: [email protected]

CFD analysis facilitating visualization of residual CO2 & flow velocities.

Helpful Engineering

Helpful Engineering helps to incubate organizations that work on open source projects, including OSR. Helpful Engineering is a nonprofit that arose as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization includes a global community of 3,400 volunteers who are dedicated to addressing the pandemic through innovative, open source projects. Volunteers include doctors, scientists, and engineers. In addition to OSR, Helpful Engineering volunteers are also working on projects such as a Manufacturer Database, RespiraWorks, and more.


You Can Help

Open Standard Respirator (OSR)

Open Standard Respirator and Helpful Engineering are seeking volunteers who can design, manufacture, or distribute equipment. As OSR and Helpful Engineering continue to ramp up on various projects, they will also need funding. If you have the capacity to, please consider volunteering or donating through the links below:

Open Standard Respirator (OSR)

Helpful Engineering

The designs for these respirators and other safety equipment solutions are presented As-Is. The goal is to present designs that can foster further discussion and be utilized in countries that permit this product. These are not finalized designs and do not represent certification from any country. You accept responsibility and release Helpful Engineering from liability for the manufacture or use of this product. This design was created in response to the announcement on March 10, 2020, from the HHS.  Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) who issued a declaration pursuant to the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act

Link to Prep act. :



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